If there has been one enduring theme of the NHL playoffs this season (and to be honest, the regular season of every season ever), it’s that officiating and video review need to be examined. The game moves a mile a second, and the refs are only people. Sometimes they miss small things that could be a penalty, other times they call things that aren’t penalties and can change the entire course of a game. The five minute major against the Vegas Golden Knights on the Joe Pavelski hit was one such phantom call that absolutely changed the direction of a game seven. A missed hand pass by the San Jose Sharks led to an overtime game winner in game three against the Blues. The Bruins bounced one off of the netting in a play that needed to be whistled dead against the Blue Jackets. The Colorado Avalanche had a goal recalled in a reviewed offside play that demonstrated that the rule book may need clarification.
It’s not just fans that see this. The league does too. Bettman was incensed at the missed hand pass, telling assembled reporters before game one: “What I thought [at the time] was that it would be good if I kept my head from exploding. I was unhappy. We all were.” They want the best officiating possible to limit controversy, but Bettman and the league also has a valid argument: how much is too much?
“We want to get it right, but what is the ‘it’? How far do you go back? What actually affects the actual result?”
To be fair, everything impacts everything else in a game. The whole chain of events is a butterfly effect unto itself. A missed penalty against a player can lead to him scoring a goal a minute and a half later.
“What if the hand pass happened a minute earlier? Or it cleared the zone? You can roll it back endlessness,” he said. “If we decide to extend replay, we have to define it in a way where we don’t ruin the game and get it right.”
Where do you stop? Where do you determine the distinction between helping to ensure integrity and not impeding the flow of the game? Fans get infuriated at offside challenges that take five minutes (and Bettman rightfully pointed out that review as something that has grown much larger than intended). What happens when you have to Zapruder Film everything that happens in a game? Bettman shut down universal call reviews unequivocally.
Refs aren’t catching everything. We know that. We also know that we can’t go back seven minutes before a goal to examine every potential missed call that contributed to it. Not everything is going to get called perfectly, but how does the league ensure things are at least called more accurately?